When the Words Won’t Come

One of the first things I learned about life post-contract is that waiting is part of the publishing world no matter where we are in the process. Selling a book doesn’t magically change things. We still wait.

And we wonder. Since each step in the process is new, we deal with the unknown on a regular basis. Even though I have friends who’ve gone through the process before, each publisher does things differently. No two situations are alike.

I wish I could say I took the waiting in stride and forged ahead, but I didn’t. I battled a severe case of Second Book Syndrome.

I don’t like to admit it, but the truth is that I duke it out with doubt on a daily basis. Having a contract hasn’t changed that. If anything, the pressure I feel and the doubts I experience have intensified.

For more months than I like to admit, getting any words written was a struggle. The voices in my head shouted messages like, “So what if you sold one book. Do you really think you can write another one?” or “You’re nothing but a One Book Wonder.”

Three things helped me get through the tough time when I tweezed out words.

1. I wrote even when doubts plagued me.

Many days I sat at the computer, plunked words on the page, and felt sure they were lousy. I didn’t allow myself to edit them, though. Instead, I forced myself to finished the story. I told myself I could fix what was wrong once the story was done. Since I had to rewrite three-quarters of the book that sold, I learned that I can make a story better. I just have to get the first draft written.

2. I reported my daily word counts to my accountability partners.

My critique partners offered to serve as my accountability partners. Each evening I’d report my word count. Knowing that I’d be checking in with them gave me the push I needed to write even when the doubts messed with my head.

3. I asked the Lord to go before me and help me tell the story He’d given me.

Since I’m a Christian, I find prayer to be a tremendous source of encouragement. The Lord has been my writing partner from the day I wrote the first word of my first story, and I know He’s there for me. Admitting to Him how scared I was and seeking His comfort and guidance helped.

I’m happy to say I survived Second Book Syndrome and completed my latest story last week. What makes me more excited is that I think it may even be better than my debut novel. In spite of my doubts, I have the satisfaction of knowing I did my best.

If you’ve yet to sell a book, how do you envision life on the other side of the contract?

If you’ve sold a book, did you battle Second Book Syndrome?

How do you persevere in the face of debilitating doubts?


Keli Gwyn writes stories that transport readers to the 1800s, where she brings historic towns to life, peoples them with colorful characters, and adds a hint of humor. A California native, she lives in a Gold Rush-era town in at the foot of the majestic Sierras with her husband and two skitty kitties. Her debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, will be released by Barbour Publishing in July 2012. Keli is a member of the EDH Inspire group.

To learn more about Keli Gwyn and her writing, visit: Keli Gwyn’s Blog

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